So, what should you know about heroin and Suboxone? What is heroin and is it really different from Suboxone?

Heroin and Suboxone are two commonly discussed substances, as the U.S. is in the midst of an opioid epidemic affecting millions of people. The opioid epidemic involves illicit drugs like heroin and legal prescription painkillers.

So, what should you know about heroin and Suboxone? What is heroin and how is it different from Suboxone? What are the interactions, dangers, and benefits you should know about heroin and Suboxone?

Article at a Glance:

  • Heroin and Suboxone are two substances that are similar to one another in terms of how they affect the brain and central nervous system.
  • Suboxone is used to help treat heroin and opioid addiction because it alleviates withdrawal symptoms and also blocks the effects of other opioids.
  • Suboxone can interact with substances like Xanax and alcohol, and it also has the potential for misuse.
  • Doctors should be cautious about prescribing Suboxone to patients who are addicted to opioids, and it should only be used as one component of a complete treatment plan.

What Is Heroin?

Before looking at the specific interactions, dangers, and benefits of heroin and Suboxone, we first have to answer the question: What is heroin?

Heroin is an illegal opioid sold on the black market. Heroin can vary widely in purity and is often cut with other ingredients, which frequently turn out to be dangerous or deadly. It’s typically injected.

Heroin acts on the brain and the central nervous system much like prescription narcotic painkillers. It crosses the blood-brain barrier and then binds to the opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system. When this happens, the brain is flooded with a large amount of dopamine, which causes people to feel a euphoric high. Following this euphoria, people often become drowsy, nod off or lapse into a coma. Because heroin and other opioids depress the central nervous system, other people may also experience slowed breathing rate and lowered temperature and blood pressure, which can be deadly.

When your brain is exposed to the rush of dopamine that occurs because of heroin, addiction can develop since heroin activates reward pathways.

Heroin is highly addictive, meaning that many people develop a physical and psychological dependence on this drug. This means that if you were to stop using heroin suddenly, you would go through withdrawal. Withdrawal from opioids is one of the most difficult parts of recovery for many people.

What Is Suboxone?

Suboxone is a medication used to treat opioid addiction. Suboxone combines two substances: naloxone and buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is an opioid medication. Naloxone is added to Suboxone to block the high that people usually experience from opioids.

Suboxone helps people go through detox more comfortably because it mitigates the symptoms of withdrawal. The naloxone component of Suboxone helps prevent a relapse because even if someone were to use heroin or another opioid while on Suboxone, they wouldn’t feel high. The buprenorphine component binds to opioid receptors in the brain. Because buprenorphine is considered a partial opioid agonist — which means it creates many of the same effects of opioids, but in a milder way — it can’t deliver the full effects of opioids.

The interactions, dangers, and benefits of Suboxone all have to be weighed carefully if a physician is considering administering Suboxone to help someone stop using heroin. For example, one of the dangers of Suboxone is the fact that it can lead to misuse on its own. Because it can be habit-forming for some people, the use of Suboxone has to be carefully monitored. It should also be noted that Suboxone doesn’t alleviate cravings for opioids.

Methadone is another form of medication-assisted treatment for heroin and opioid addiction, but it has to be given in a designated clinic, while Suboxone can be prescribed by physicians with special licensing. This can make Suboxone potentially riskier if the doctor administering it isn’t well-versed in addiction treatment. At the same time, the more widespread availability of Suboxone means that more people have access to treatment options for heroin and opioid addiction.

If you are taking Suboxone or your doctor is considering prescribing it to you, it’s important to carefully evaluate interactions, dangers, and benefits. We’ve looked at the possible dangers and benefits of Suboxone, but what about interactions?

Many of the heroin and Suboxone interaction warnings are similar to one another.

For example, you shouldn’t take benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium with Suboxone because it can cause impairment, unconsciousness, respiratory failure or death since both opioids and benzodiazepines depress the central nervous system. People are warned against mixing Suboxone and cocaine as well because cocaine can reduce the amount of buprenorphine in the blood and make a person go into sudden opioid withdrawal. Alcohol is also a depressant, and if you mix it with Suboxone, it can cause respiratory failure.

For treatment for heroin addiction, contact The Recovery Village to learn more about medical detox and therapy options.

Megan Hull
Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
Frances Antoinette Aguilar
Medically Reviewed By – Frances Antoinette Aguilar, PharmD
With over 11 years experience in academic, hospital, and ambulatory pharmacy, Frances has a demonstrated history of working in the hospital and healthcare industry, assisting physicians with the development of pathways or protocols to improve clinical practice. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.